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When Prithviraj Kapoor Asked Shashi Kapoor, Jennifer Kendal To Wait For Their Marriage: ‘My God’

The cinematic legacy of the Kapoor family, often referred to as the ‘first family of Bollywood’, began with the late legendary actor Prithviraj Kapoor. The current generation may know actors Ranbir Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan or Karisma Kapoor as the famous members of the family, but films by Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor are still remembered. Born in Samundri, Punjab Province, British India, on November 3, 1906, the iconic actor traveled far and wide with his vision for Indian cinema.

He is remembered for his appearances in films like Sikandar, Alam Ara, Mugal-E-Azam and Kal Aaj Aur Kal, he started his career in the silent movie era and successfully transitioned to talkies. He also founded Prithvi theatres, which are still a cultural icon in India today. While his children – Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor – carry on his legacy, it was Shashi who was most closely associated with Prithvi.

Shashi, along with wife Jennifer, had a deep interest in theater. In fact, that’s how the duo met. He met Jennifer when he was part of a theater company and worked in her father’s theater production. As reported by India Today, Jennifer’s sister Felicity Kendal writes in her autobiography White Cargo that Shashi saw Jennifer at the then Shakespearana house in Bombay (which eventually merged with Prithvi theatre) and it was love at first sight for him. Both quickly fell in love, but met much opposition from Jennifer’s father, Goeffrey Kendal, who led Shakespearana.

Aseem Chhabra, who wrote the biography of Shashi Kapoor, wrote that Sanjana, the daughter of Shashi and Jennifer, had told him, ‘When they acted (Shashi and Jennifer), they were poor. They slept too little and were malnourished and my father would tell me how they would be tormented by hunger as they strolled the streets – both my parents were trying to decide if they could have half a paratha. Then they would walk past a restaurant and there my grandfather, Geoffrey Kendal, would have a huge meal with a beer. My father couldn’t walk in. He was his employee and he also stole his daughter. So there was no way he could march into the storm.”

Finally, after divorcing Geoffrey Kendal and many disappointments in international theater and play circuits, Shashi finally asked for help from brother Raj Kapoor. He was quick to help his brother and sent two cards calling Shashi and Jennifer to Bombay. It was then that the Kapoor family became acquainted with the relationship between Shashi and Jennifer.

In one of his last interviews before his passing in 2017, Shashi revealed how Prithviraj Kapoor reacted to his intention to get married. In an interview with News Tak, Shashi had said: “When I saw Jennifer, when I was 18, I immediately wanted to marry her. My parents (shocked expression) said, ‘My god 18 is a bit young’. So I said, ‘Okay, I’ll wait’. I waited two years, then they asked me ‘Do you still want that?’ I said ‘yes’ and they said ok.”

Shashi Kapoor with Jennifer Kendal

The late actor Shashi Kapoor and his wife Jennifer Kendal. (Photo: Express Archives)



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